Super Best Audio Friends

The evolution of the original irreverent and irrelevant and non-authoritative site for headphone measurements, i.e. frequency response graphs, CSD waterfall plots, subjective gear reviews. Too objective for subjectivists; too subjective for objectivists

The amp started off as a 445, but getting easily bored, Craig wanted to try something different. He rigged it up to use 6L6 power pentodes wired up for ultralinear operation. There are x2 pentodes per channel, so one may think this would be push-pull, but it isn't. It's single-ended all the way. The original OPTs were for single-ended designs anyway, so Craig had to keep this single ended. The outputs of the 6L6 are paralleled. This amp doesn't have any interstage coupling caps either. It uses interstage transformers.

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Ultralinear is more powerful, punchy, with sharper and stronger attacks. Triode is softer, more rounded, but offers space, texture, and plankton. Ultralinear is clean, with straight lines, maybe even a bit simplified. Which one is more true? I'll be a weasel like the audio magazine reviewers and say that I do not know and that the listener must decide! My bias is obvious, but it's not nearly so black and white, it depends.
A few weeks years ago, I called the Garage1217 Project Ember a POS** on SBAF. Probably not a fair thing for me to say; but nevertheless, I still don’t care for the Ember. I don’t remember exactly which version of the Ember I had (I think it was 2) ; but I did play around with all the switches to get the best sound, and even used Yggdrasil as the source, as well as several different headphones (HD800, HD600, Code-X, Abyss, etc.). The Ember sounded bloated, veiled, too tubey, slow, unlively, glossed over, and with some grain and dryness in the highs. My experience with Project Starlight wasn’t all that great either (boring and unengaging). So I completely wrote off everything from Garage1217 for years.

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@Luckbad, seeing my post, offered to send me his Project Horizon to try, assuring me that the Horizon was different – better. I decided to accept this offer. I may have strong opinions, but I want to be fair. My motto has always been “prove me wrong”. BTW, the Horizon supposedly has a different topology from the Ember. I am not sure about this, so I would defer to all questions to either Luckbad for Garage1217.
As well as high-end two channel speakers, headphones, and nice car speakers, Focal makes monitors for the professional market. It's my understanding that one goes Focal for the service. For professionals, service can be crucial. The Alpha 80 is Focal's model with the 8" woofer paired with a 1" tweeter. Focal also has an Alpha 65 and 50 with 6.5" and 5" woofers respectively. The woofer looks to be some sort of glass impregnated paper. The tweeter is an aluminum inverted dome mounted on a shallow waveguide.

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In light of the contributions, I will be making all my headphone data available on public GitHub:
https://github.com/superbestaudiofriends/headphone-measurements
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One step at a time, so I want to start with frequency response first. This will be the most useful for people who want to create their own EQ profiles. The headphone frequency data I have put up there is compensated for a perceptual neutral as a straight vertical line across. For now, this data is copyrighted. However, can any of you guys who could tell me exactly what I need to do in concise steps to make it Creative Commons with Attribution? I don't care how the data is used, even if people want to make money from it with fancy EQ plug-ins. It would be great if someone can take the data and make a frequency response comparator. I'm too busy and most of my coding has been for tougher things involving numbers, e.g. attack and decay envelope for burst responses, etc. I know some of you guys have mentioned how you can help with coding stuff. Here is your opportunity.
So I got to thinking: Something that works with IEMs. That's what I need. I had a conversation with a member a while back regarding an small amp that would work well with hybrid DD/BA IEMs, namely the Solaris (OG or 2020). I've always ran CFA IEMs from the Sony ZX2 ever since I've picked it up. The reason is that the ZX2's organic sound, it's organic lows, mids, and highs, meshed really well with the OG Andromeda. I added the OG Solaris to the mix and it worked well enough. However, it wasn't as perfect as I wanted to be. While the organic highs of the Sony ZX2 player does wonders with the CFA BA drivers, the DD drivers, with their physicality, slower decay, and softer attacks, didn't gel so with with the ZX2. It wasn't bad, but it could be better. Similar issue with the Drop JVC FDX1. It's upper midrange emphasis is tamed by the ZX2, but it's bass really needed some help. So ahead I forged on the Apos website.

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Wait, what's this xDuoo boopy doop thingy? Hmm, the Force or Magic Eight Ball is telling me something here. "Hey, @CEE TEE, can you get me the iDuo duodenum X15 ZYX +++ mega version edition doodad?"

Well it turned out my hunch was right.
Geekria provides several types of pads for Grado. To be specific, I am taking about these below. In terms of thickness, they are somewhere between the stock L-pad and SR60 cushions, but of larger diameter. The Geekria material is softer and more pliant than the Grado pads. In other words, more comfortable.

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@Hands already did a lot of the heavy lifting in his Symphones V9 build review, going through 100 different pads. He zero'd in on the Geekria as being the best for this headphone, so I just went along with it. FWIW, I also agree these pads worked the best. For kicks, I also tried these pads with the Grado HF-3, and they worked quite well (more later).
Picture or didn't happen. This legal drug arrived at my place today. I could finally convince myself for the following reasons: (1) I need a summer pair of headphones; (2) My b-day is coming. Wanted a little special gift for myself; (3) F*** that's too beautiful to pass.. I'm not immune to "limited" marketing, either.... :(

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I'm posting measurements first, as I immediately noticed I had to measure today -- otherwise I would not be able to do forever. Sounds holy-shit-oh-my-god-homerun-good to me.
This is the companion unit to the iFi ZEN CAN. I'm going to ship this to @ChaChaRealSmooth to get his take on it because he's heard the regular iFi ZEN DAC/amp AIO. From the sounds of it, it seems like the Signature is a more grown up version. The Drop x ZEN DAC Signature is a DAC only.

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Overall the sound is warm and a touch on the polite and forgiving side in the overall universe of DACs, cheap or expensive, that I have heard throughout the years. The ZEN DAC Signature is a still delta-sigma DAC, but iFi seems to go for a house sound that doesn't shear your ears of with digititus. The highs are plenty natural or as natural as can be. I'm assuming iFi is still going with the BB PCM179x series chips for this listenable quality. These chips are a bit dated. They are not the last word in microdetail compared to today's latest and greatest AKM or ESS parts. However, they don't suffer from the dreaded VELVET SOUND that every other person seems to dislike around here, or the still slightly unnatural highs of the ESS.
Well, probably more measurements than a formal review. Quick impressions are that on a technical level, they are somewhere between the Clear and Utopia, closer to Utopia. The Stellia is a closed variant in Focal's line, above the Elegia reviewed here: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/focal-elegia-review-and-measurements.8190/

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Personally, I prefer the Elegia from a tonal signature point of view, but the Stellia is massively better in terms of resolution, transient response, and just plain ol' liveliness and engagement. I didn't have as much time to tweak stuff as I wanted. As with any closed headphone (with the exception of properly executed Fostex T50RP mods), there's stuff that's a bit off and requires EQ to massage. The frequency response looks quite good though, but still.
The ZEN CAN Signature has an active EQ designed or the Drop HD6XX. There is a button which I assume should be able to active or deactivate this feature with a corresponding LED indicator. However, this does not appear to be work. The ZEN CAN seems stuck with the HD6XX EQ mode on. I am not sure if the unit is broken or if I do not know how to use it. Either way, I'm sure this will be remediated sooner or later.

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Shame to see Garuspik banned, he had a bright future in the headphone game, nailed the timbre of a planar on his first go which is damn impressive, his comments while some funny others a bit too far and unprofessional in other places ultimately probably contributed to his banning.

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This is now multiple forums and while reddit and discord aren't a big deal, headfi for marketing and here for quality impressions will hurt him. I hope in future he can come back from this but I feel he's too set in his ways to. Such a shame.
I wish I had gotten to the Burl earlier and didn't initially discount it on the matter of their sales pitch in SOS on the DAC sounding "analog" with "deliberate ... distortion". Or maybe that was the writer's lame interpretation. I was worried about warmpoo or 1984 R2R NOS sound which I most definitely wanted to avoid. It's hardly that at all. Yet at the same time, the Burl B2 Bomber DAC quite the opposite of the Benchmark or Mytek approaches (shudders).

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The Burl B2 Bomber DAC is something that I simply listening to. I don't get distracted by wow this or wow that. It's not that it doesn't do certain things well as all good DACs do or have its own flavor. It's just that goes about its business nonchalant way. This isn't Zhang Zimou were the audience thinks "wow, artsy fartsy, look at all those colors and synchronized movements", this is Steven Spielberg where we are engrossed in the story.